By Apollo Munghinda
The Planning and Budgeting process for each financial year is done in accordance with Article 155 (1) of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda and Section 13 (1 & 2) of the Public Finance Management Act, 2015 (Amended) which requires the Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development to prepare the Budget in a consultative manner on behalf of H.E the President.
The budget consultations for next financial year 2024/25 for example, started in the first quarter of this financial year (August and September 2023) with internal consultations. This process is pivotal in ensuring that the strategic priorities of government are agreed upon with all the relevant stakeholders including Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), Parliament, Local Governments, Development Partners, Private Sector and the Civil Society. The various levels of consultation ensure transparency and inclusiveness for effective decision-making.
The Finance ministry (MoFPED) coordinates the budget consultative process in accordance with the existing planning and budgeting frameworks: The national development plan (NDP); the NRM manifesto; international and regional commitments, as well as the prevailing economic, political, and social circumstances at national, regional and global levels.
The internal stakeholder consultations involve the political and technical leadership of government institutions, H.E the President and Cabinet. The national platforms such as the Economic Growth Forum, the National Competitive Forum and the National Budget Conference give key stakeholders, an opportunity to make proposals to government regarding the priorities to consider in the national budget.
National Budget Conference
The Finance Minister at the national budget conference presents governments’ strategic areas of focus for investment and the preliminary resource envelope for the new financial year.
At the recent national budget conference for FY 2024/2025,Finance Minister Matia Kasaija highlighted the budget priorities: Agricultural production and value addition; climate change and management of food security; implementation of the parish development model (PDM); accelerated development of the mineral sector; consolidating infrastructure development to reduce the cost of doing business; security and governance; human capital development; digitalization and automation of the economy; and private sector development. The Minister on this occasion also unveiled the preliminary total resource envelope for FY 2024/25, which amounts to Ushs. 52,722.7 billion.
Participants at the budget conference for FY 2024/25, made recommendations which are now being considered by government. These include, improving domestic revenue mobilization to reduce the proportion of the budget financed through borrowing; identifying alternative sources of funding for public investments; expanding the tax base and ensuring that all Ugandans pay their fair share of taxes.
The stakeholders urged government to facilitate the development of the private sector by ensuring access to affordable financing, intensifying the fight against corruption by among other measures; fast-tracking automation of government; establishing service delivery standards and setting standard prices for commonly used goods and services, to ensure value for money in public procurement.
They also recommended improvement of production and productivity under the agro-industrialization programme by addressing challenges of quality seeds, water for production and post–harvest losses among other issues of concern in this programme. Fortunately, most of these issues had been identified as key priorities in the budget strategy for FY 2024/25.
Local Government Regional Consultations
To ensure effective participation of local government stakeholders, regional workshops are conducted across the country involving local government political and technical leaders, area Members of Parliament and the Civil Society.
MoFPED uses this platform to communicate government’s budget strategy and priorities for the proceeding financial year, the indicative planning figures (IPFs), and grant programme guidelines for the proceeding financial year to facilitate their preparation of budgets and identification of investment priorities to operationalize the development strategies.
Financial year 2024/25 consultative engagements with local governments (LGs) focused on status of implementation of the parish development model; improvement of local revenue mobilization; staffing challenges; Status of operationalization of new administrative units, and sharing of property between cities and mother districts.
There was concurrence during these engagements that physical planning in local governments should be prioritized to address the high rate of urbanization. Improving absorption of the development budgets; titling of government land; building the capacity of local government councilors; strengthening extension services; monitoring and evaluation were also considered as key action points for government in the budget strategy for next financial year.
After consultations, government takes into consideration the proposals raised by stakeholders at the various consultative platforms to align the budget priorities to the national development plan and the major service delivery needs of the citizens.
MoFPED has already communicated the budget ceilings for FY 2024/25 to the program working groups and the program lead ministries. The lead ministries convene programme working group meetings to agree on programme priorities and vote level allocations in line with the budget strategy.
The programme working groups (PWGs) have been working on the budget framework papers (BFPs) which have been submitted to MoFPED for consolidation and onward submission to Cabinet and Parliament by 31st December,2023. Parliament is also required to approve the BFP by 1st February 2024, and based on the recommendations by Parliament, MoFPED will adjust the vote allocations and issue the second budget call circular (2nd BCC) which will kick-start the preparation of the ministerial policy statements (MPS) and draft budget estimates for FY 2024/25. The MPS and draft budget estimates are expected to be approved by Parliament not later than 31St May,2024, ahead of the national budget reading by 15th June, 2024.
Popularizing the Budget
The approval of the budget by Parliament gives MoFPED the greenlight to undertake deliberate and targeted activities to popularize the budget to citizens with a clarion call to participate in budget implementation, monitoring and demand for accountability with results.
The annual national budget month platform, is now a permanent fixture on MoFPED calendar intended to inspire public ownership of the national budget. With the support of budget transparency initiative (BTI) partners, through public dialogues, media engagements and corporate social responsibility, Ugandans have been encouraged to participate in government programs, appreciate voluntary tax compliance and fulfil their tax obligations.
Consequently, the gap between citizens and the government has continued to be bridged.
MoFPED is very grateful to all stakeholders who have played a role in ensuring that the budget process is validated at all levels. Uganda’s budget process is very open and ranks number two in Africa, only next to South Africa in terms of budget transparency. It remains the duty of all stakeholders to take advantage of the opportunities in national budget.
The Writer is the Principal Communications Officer, Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development